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'The Feds were very slow': Connecticut Gov. criticizes Trump administration's initial coronavirus response

The federal government failed to adequately address the coronavirus outbreak in its early stages and told the public conflicting messages about the severity of the crisis, says Democratic Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont.

“Obviously, the Feds were very slow off the draw,” he says. “They didn't take it seriously early on.”

“They sent mixed messages: Hoax, business as usual,” he adds, in a newly released interview on “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” taped on March 20.

Asked by Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer about his stance on Trump’s use of “Chinese virus” as a term for the coronavirus, Lamont says, “It doesn’t help things.”

“This is a virus that knows no borders,” he adds, citing a dramatic reduction of new infections in China as confirmed cases continue to rise in Europe and the United States. (On Tuesday, Trump said he would no longer emphasize the Chinese origins of the virus.)

Last Friday, Lamont announced an order for his state that requires all nonessential businesses to close and recommends that residents maintain social distancing and limit outdoor activities — a stay-at-home measure similar to those that, as of Tuesday, have been announced by at least sixteen other states, including New York and California.

In all, more than half of Americans live under such rules, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

As of Wednesday morning, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. rose to more than 55,200, as the worldwide total surpassed 435,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of people diagnosed with the disease in the U.S. has grown dramatically since March 1, when there were roughly 100 confirmed cases.

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the coronavirus task force daily briefing as as National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci listens at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

‘They’re taking it very seriously now’

As the adverse economic impact of the coronavirus comes into view, Trump is concerned about the effect of measures that shut down large amounts of business activity, Vanity Fair reported on Monday, citing unnamed sources. He is frustrated with governors and public health officials who’ve backed such measures, the article says.

On Tuesday, Trump said the U.S. can achieve public health objectives while also softening the blow to the U.S. economy, and appeared to call on Congress to pass a $2 trillion stimulus bill.

“Our people want to return to work,” he tweeted. “They will practice Social Distancing and all else, and Seniors will be watched over protectively & lovingly. We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (by far) THAN THE PROBLEM! Congress MUST ACT NOW. We will come back strong!”

Early Wednesday morning, lawmakers reached a $2 trillion stimulus agreement that’s slated to be the largest such package in U.S. history.

Speaking to Yahoo Finance last Friday, Lamont offered qualified praise for the Trump administration’s shift toward addressing the outbreak.

“I think they're taking it very seriously now,” Lamont says. “That means in terms of haltingly getting us some of the supplies we need: PPE [personal protective equipment], swabs, ventilators.”

Lamont made the remarks during a conversation that aired in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

Since he took office at the outset of last year, Lamont has signed legislation set to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour as well as another measure set to guarantee family and medical leave. One week ago, he joined New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a coordinated regional effort to limit gatherings to 50 people or less and close gyms, movie theaters, and casinos.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont appears on "Influencers with Andy Serwer."

Speaking on Friday, Lamont not only criticized the Trump administration but also Congress. While he gave credit to lawmakers for passing a pair of coronavirus relief bills in recent weeks, he criticized a third bill expected to be passed by the Senate this week.

“Now you've got the trillion dollar bill that's going to wind its way through,” he says. “Sounds a little bit more like a Christmas tree to me with a lot of ornaments on it.”

Congress should allocate sufficient funds to the states, which are best positioned to effectively direct the money, Lamont said.

“The governors feel very strongly, give us a block grant,” he said, “give us the flexibility to put the money where it'll have the most impact.”

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